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How I Used My Mobile Phone As Everything But A Phone

Using Human-Centered Design Is Key To Understand The Potential Of Mobile Devices

Mobile Apps, Mobile Devices, Research Comments (1)

The age of digital prosthetics is here. We are now able to access the complete Web using devices in our pockets.

“Mobile phones are misnamed,” says Ray Kurzweil, an inventor, futurist, and director of engineering at Google. “They should be called gateways to human knowledge.”

They are so much more than that when you expand the scope to supports for operating in the physical world, and interacting with the people and places in it. These devices, the apps that run on them, and the objects they can interact with allow us to be more than we are without them. We use these devices as proxies for all sorts of tools, job aids, and assistants we used to depend on as individual tools.

Thinking back on just last week, I used my “phone” to do the following:

  1. Wake up using the alarm clock.
  2. Read the news.
  3. Control the thermostat in my house.
  4. Select channels on my television.
  5. Play video games with my Xbox system using my phone as the controller.
  6. Order a pizza.
  7. Send a bunch of text messages.
  8. Participate in a variety of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  9. Find a weather report for my town.
  10. Listen to some music streamed from some unknown server in the cloud.
  11. Check my location with the GPS app.
  12. Buy an airplane ticket which to display at the gate.
  13. Take some still pictures and videos of my kids playing.
  14. Set the alarm on my home security system.
  15. Play a video from YouTube.
  16. Build a shopping list for later use.
  17. Order a book online.
  18. Request an Uber driver to pick me up and take me to the airport.
  19. Update my to-do list.
  20. Add an event to my calendar.
  21. Verify how many steps I took each day with my fitness tracking app.
  22. Read an eBook on Kindle.
  23. Play some games on my phone.
  24. Create an expense report for work.
  25. Change the slides on my presentation at a conference.

That’s quite a lot of things to get done with one device. (As a side note, I also made a couple of phone calls on the device.)

What is obvious is the mobile phone or tablet represents a “convergence” of technologies that all work well together, but which we tend to think about as a single device.


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To understand the immense potential of these tools, and to use them in new and innovative ways, we need to use “human-centered design” to figure out what possibilities exist within the technologies packaged in a small plastic case, and how we can both use these possibilities, and combine them together to invent new possibilities, with the goal of solving human and business problems.

This practice stems from what Float calls the TAO of enterprise mobility. The word tao is a Chinese concept meaning “way” or “path.” In the enterprise, the TAO is comprised of technologies, affordances, and organizational change. You can learn about this in part 1 of our new white paper series, The TAO of Enterprise Mobility.



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As managing director of Float, Chad Udell designs, develops and manages interactive Web and mobile projects. Chad has worked with industry-leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to concept, design and develop award-winning experiences. Chad is recognized as an expert in mobile design and development, and he speaks regularly at national and international events and conferences on related topics. In 2012, Chad released his first book, “Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies Are Transforming Training.” In 2014, he co-edited the book, “Mastering Mobile Learning: Tips and Techniques for Success” with Dr. Gary Woodill, Ed.D.

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On March 2, 2016
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